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Government Outreach -September 11, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
September 11, 2023

1. Special election in western Pennsylvania to determine if Democrats or GOP take control of the House - Majority control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will again come down to a special election later this month, when Republican voters attempt to flip power back to their caucus while facing a strongly Democratic lean in a Pittsburgh district. The race pits a former Democratic congressional staffer against the daughter of two local officials who were politically active. Democrat Lindsay Powell, 32, and Republican Erin Connolly Autenreith, 65, will face off for the Allegheny County state House seat on Sept. 19, one week before the chamber is scheduled to return to floor session in Harrisburg. They are vying to replace a progressive Democrat, former state Rep. Sara Innamorato, who resigned in July to seek the county executive job. Her departure left the House at a 101-101 tie. The district is a Democratic stronghold Democratic strategists predict their party will be able to retain. The House isn’t due back until a week after the special election decides the fate of the majority, leaving aspects of the final state budget undone. Innamorato’s departure makes advancing measures on party-line votes more difficult for Democrats. Read More

2. Pennsylvania No. 4 state with most people leaving in 2023: report - A new report has laid bare American real estate habits in 2023. In it, Pennsylvania was revealed to have been among the top states people are moving out of. The company Home Bay published the study last week, entitled “Where Should I Move? The Best (And Worst) Places to Live in 2023.” Researchers at the company pulled proprietary data from an online survey they commissioned in July. This — paired with data from the U.S. Census Bureau on factors such as unemployment and regional price parities — allowed for researchers to get a feel on how people felt about the real estate market regionally. While no city in Pennsylvania was ranked in a notable spot on either the “most desirable” or “least desirable” places to move lists, the state ranked 18th overall as one of the top 20 states people are looking to move to. Interestingly enough, however, the Keystone State was found to be fourth overall when it came to having the most people leaving it to live somewhere else, with 56% of individuals heading outbound. Read More

3. Moody's boosts state's bond rating to 'positive.' Moody's raised the state's bond rating from "stable" to "positive" on Friday, noting the state's run of three years of strong economic growth. "Economic performance has historically lagged the nation but has improved somewhat over the past year, and state revenue has been stronger than expected for three consecutive fiscal years. As a result, the commonwealth has set aside $5.1 billion in budget stabilization reserves since fiscal 2020," according to Moody's statement. "The commonwealth has also accumulated important liquidity outside the rainy day fund, however these may be spent down to fund ongoing spending pressures, balance the end of federal stimulus aid, and support capital investments. Maintenance of adequate reserves is particularly important in Pennsylvania given a history of protracted budget negotiations, as well as demographic weaknesses that could have negative implications for long-term job growth, overall economic performance and state revenue." Gov. Josh Shapiro said the news reaffirms that the state is "on sound financial footing - and that with the commonsense investments we are making, Pennsylvania is on a path for continued economic growth." Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, the Senate Majority Appropriations Committee chairman, said that the improved bond rating is due to fiscal discipline championed by members of his caucus. "We have done everything in our power to protect taxpayer dollars and put our Commonwealth on better financial footing, and this announcement shows that we are on the right track. This news confirms that Pennsylvania is stronger today because of the tough choices we have made over the past several years. It also serves as a valuable reminder that we shouldn't deviate from that path in the years ahead," he said.

4. House GOP members announce package of bills at improving security of county jails. A group of House Republicans has announced plans for a package of legislation aimed at improving state oversight of county jails. The news comes as law enforcement in southeastern Pennsylvania continue to search for an escape murderer who fled the Chester County jail almost two weeks ago. The five-bill package would: -- Provide funding to upgrade security and health infrastructure (including heating and air conditioning) of county jails. -- Bolster staff by allowing county jails to hire other county corrections officers or state corrections officers to fill vacant shifts. -- Eliminate parole opportunities for inmates who escape county jails or attempt escape. -- Require the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to conduct a security audit of county jails that have experienced a jail escape. -- Create an alert system to be activated in the event of a prison escape. "Pennsylvanians deserve to know that our county jails are safe and secure, and we must do more to improve working conditions for our county corrections officers to enhance recruitment and fill staffing shortages," said Rep. Craig Williams, R-Delaware, who is sponsoring legislation to require that a greater portion of the savings realized from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) be directed to fund Pennsylvania's county jails to improve security and promote the safety of inmates and staff.

5. Pa. House panel examines consumer data privacy bil Legislation to protect consumer data privacy drew mixed views from businesses and business groups during an information-gathering meeting before a House committee. The Commerce Committee looked at House Bill 1201 aimed at protecting consumers’ digital privacy, allowing them to access their personal information that’s been collected, giving them legal rights to decline or opt out of the sale of their personal information and banning the sale of all private information for consumers under age 16. In written testimony, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry said it would prefer a federal law addressing this topic, but acknowledged that Congress has yet to act. Chamber executive Alex Halper said any state law on consumer data privacy should recognize that employers may struggle to interpret the law and provide an opportunity for missteps to be corrected, draw a distinction between consumer data and standard personal data that employers collect from employees and recognize that some personal data is important to societal goals from public safety to improving medicine and health among other objectives. Read More

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